20th / 21st July 2019

posted 23 Jul 2019, 01:54 by Parish Office

Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (20 & 21/7/19)


Hospitality – how do you cope?  Maybe you're naturally very hospitable, or have developed the skills to be so.  You might relish the opportunity.  Or maybe your thoughts on the matter are more like, “It's great when guests come to visit, but it's even better when they leave.  There's nothing more comforting than seeing a set of rear brake lights.”  Today, I want to look at the issue of hospitality, taking Martha and Mary as a point from which to begin.


Some people get very stressed at the idea of guests coming.  They worry about the state of the house not being good enough, the cat gets kicked and the children get shouted at.  We don't know if Martha and Mary had any animals, but we certainly get the impression that Martha was a hive of activity, but also got rather exasperated.  Not only did she get annoyed with Mary for not helping her out, but she also was a bit rude and disrespectful towards the Lord Himself.  “Lord”, she said, “do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?”  In the next sentence she is a bit more polite and uses the word “please”.  But it shows us how sometimes, fussing over the details can get to the point where the main focus is lost.  The whole point behind all the preparations was to make Christ welcome, and she ended up saying something that wasn't phrased in the best possible way.  So how might this sort of situation be repeated today?


For the sake of balance, it's worth mentioning that we should treat guests as if Christ Himself were visiting, so there should be some sort of an effort made.  Hospitality is a virtuous thing to do, even though we can struggle to get it right at times.  And in the process of making preparations and then the visit itself, it's good to get the balance right between over-fussiness and neglect.  Having guests round can sometimes be stressful, which may also depend on who the guests are.  In which case, we can adopt the approach of St Paul in his first line of today's second reading.  He wasn't writing specifically about inviting people round, but the idea applies.  He says, “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now”.  That doesn't mean we tell our guests what a nuisance their visit has been!  But rather for the sake of doing a good deed, we can offer up the inconvenience for a good cause, bear it with a smile, and be glad to (hopefully) make someone happy.  The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes talks about the importance of being a neighbour to everyone without exception – we don't want to be like the rich man who ignored Lazarus.  So it also mentions people we may need, in various ways, to be hospitable and welcoming to, whether at home, at work, or elsewhere.  They include the elderly person who is forgotten about, and the foreign worker or refugee.  All are to be included.


Excessive fretting over the less important matters of life can also work the other way too.  Sometimes, these very things can stop us from being a guest at other people's homes, or other situations.  We're too busy to go round.  Furthermore, they can lead us not only to reject Christ in other people, but also to more directly sideline Him through allowing work or other things to get in the way of prayer or going to Mass on Sundays.  Given that Mass is the most important thing we do as Catholics, it's worth considering, if paid employment doesn't get in the way, of seeing whether we can also get to Mass during the week as well.  After all, Jesus said it was Mary who had chosen the better part.  This doesn't mean that we can legitimately use Mass and prayer as an excuse for never doing any work or fulfilling our duties, though.  Gaudium et Spes adds that it is a mistake to think we can dodge our responsibilities by focusing solely on the spiritual.  In fact, you could say it uses quite strong language where it says the following, “The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbour, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation” (no. 43).  But, as I said, it's a matter of balance, because we don't want jobs, duties and work to multiply to the point where prayer and the Mass get squeezed out.


I'll leave it there.  So whatever your current response to hospitality, see Christ in every guest, respond in a measured way, and don't take it out on the pets or the guests.  Basil Fawlty must not be your model.